Learning and video: Where is the teacher?

I use video a lot in my practice. I make video, I create online resources that incorporate video, and I use video in the workshops I offer. Lately, I hear students (and some parents) talk about how some of their teachers rely too heavily on video, that much of classtime revolves around class viewing of different videos. Also, I’ve begun to see a few articles claiming that video is not all it may be cracked out to be in the grand scheme of learning (see links to other resources at the bottom of this article).

And I agree…

..if all you are doing is getting learners to watch video as a replacement for you, the teacher.

Video will never kill the radio star in education! Why? Because while the location of content may be shifting, we must maintain our role as teacher in order to structure the learning. That has not changed.

I have long argued that the student teacher relationship is essential. I’d push that even further to say that this is even more acute in adult education. Many of our students, not all but a significant amount that I have met, have long-held wariness and even distrust towards the education system. Our relationship, is one of learning. When I show my students that I truly care about them as learners, I am working on relationship.

A student I worked with a few years ago once remarked, when I ask my teacher a question and he tells me to watch a video or go to a website instead of answering me, I feel like I am not important to him.

So how do we manage teaching with video when relationship is so important in learning?

The idea of a flipped classroom, where homework shifts to the watching of content videos outside of school so that classtime can be used for actively applying content instead of listening to the teacher deliver the content, has been around for – believe it or not – about 17 years.

The thing with a flipped classroom is that it holds a number of assumptions that I am just not comfortable making – the biggest one being equal access to technology outside of the classroom. In adult education, where many of our students have jobs and families, there is also the question of equal access to time and place for learning outside of school. This can be an issue at other levels as well.

Also, as teachers we know that the only thing we have control over is what happens in our classrooms. We have no control over things outside of that realm – and that includes over whether or not students will watch video, or do any kind of homework, at home.

Yet, I still believe that video can play an important role in the learning process. For the past couple of years, my colleague Avi Spector and I have been advocating for the well-structured use of video within the classroom. Essentially, you could say that we argue for flipping in the classroom instead of outside of it!

In our collaborations with teachers, we have learned about different strategies that work when it comes to using video for learning.

In this PD Mosaic tile, there is a video of Lindsay, a teacher who talks about how she structures the use of video with her second language adult students. Some of her key points are: ease of access – equity – autonomy.

What she doesn’t mention is that she teaches her class through the use of stations and that she structures the video viewing.

When students watch video on their own at a video station they are not truly on their own because of how a teacher structures the activity. Lindsay and other teachers use instruction cards at each station that clearly outline what is expected of the learners. In that way, the teacher is always present through how she scaffolds each part of a learning situation AND she is free to work with another group of students on a different aspect of the same learning situation.

Such an approach really helps to amplify the teacher student relationship.

(You can see sample instruction cards in the PD Mosaic tile pictured above – http://bit.ly/videoscaffolding.)

So teachers are not going anywhere and video is not enough on its own to enhance learning. But we can increase learning through relationship and how we scaffold our students’ learning experiences with video.

Other resources
Watch that Hand: Why videos may not be the best medium for knowledge retention by Tina Nazarian on EdSurge, Oct 4, 2017

Hell-oooo! Watching videos does not necessarily lead to learning by Cathie Norris and Elliot Soloway in THE Journal: Transforming Education through Technology, May 6, 2015

Telling our stories… with PowerPoint?

Short answer: Yes.

but let me elaborate.

Ever since a group of teachers told me that the professional development I had just done to them flopped big time, my direction has shifted.

(note the ‘to them’, that was intentional)

I was showing them something a group of consultants had made for them in order to encourage them to do things differently in their classrooms. Their response was…meh. They asked – why should we use this thing? We can already find all of that by ourselves, on the Internet. What they really wanted to see, they told me, was concrete examples of teachers in Adult Education, in Quebec, doing things differently in their classrooms.

I felt horrible – I had wasted their time, I had forgotten to ask what they needed before going in. Luckily, they let me know 😉

So, for the past 2 years that has been my mission. Avi Spector and I have created videos of teachers doing things differently in their classrooms. We use these videos in professional development, we share them on PDMosaic and on Twitter and YouTube. We see changes happening – the teachers we have highlighted are starting to offer professional development sessions themselves. They are influencing other teachers and their own practices are evolving as a result of it. When teachers work together, magic happens. And it is so good!

This year, I’m experiencing another shift. I am still seeking out stories of risk-taking, innovation, and success. I am also having more people ask me for help in sharing their stories – as in, they want to learn how to make their own videos. Especially when they hear that I use… wait for it… PowerPoint to make my teacher story videos. Now, PowerPoint is not the fanciest of video creation tools by far but what I love about it is that just about every educator in the Quebec school system has access to it on their classroom computer.

I always say that the biggest objective I have is to make myself obsolete and this shift I described above is playing into that. This year, as I collect teacher stories, I am working more in collaboration with the story tellers: consultants are starting to take video footage, teachers are starting to record themselves and collect creative commons images that are legal to use in videos – for some teachers, they are getting closer to not needing me at all in the creation process! (bittersweet – I do love this collaborative process…)

Parallel Story
While all of this was unfolding, the Service National of the RECIT, of which I am a member, has been looking at developing a platform for self-directed learning of teachers (l’autoformation en français). From the start, I was not interested in this platform. A lot of my energy goes to PD Mosaic, a different kind of space for online professional learning. As the year progressed and as more people were asking for help in making video, I decided to develop a course about making video capsules using PowerPoint. The course also deals with how to choose videos for your classroom and how to structure the viewing of the videos to maximise their impact on learning. The platform is currently in a testing phase and the course, along with the courses made by other members of the Service National, should be available to everyone by the beginning of the next school year. Here is a teaser video I created as part of the introduction to the course. (And yes, it was made with PowerPoint!)

Tech + Learner Autonomy: following up

Last spring I wrote a post about two teachers from the Western Quebec School Board who are doing great things in their classroom to help their learners develop autonomy.
(go read about that here: http://pdpractice.com/?p=146 )

I shared their story with a number of people and everyone I spoke with wanted to learn more, so we had a conversation which became this video. In it, they talk about why and how they developed their online resources but more significantly, they share what these resources mean for their classrooms and, ultimately, their learners. They also talk about their own learning throughout the process. I encourage you to watch this video! Thank you so much to both Michelle and Julie for sharing their story!

The video forms part of a professional development tile on Motivation in PD Mosaic.

Where does technology fit if it is no longer the goal?

Short answer? In service of relationship-based teaching & learning.

For the past little while I have been working on a follow-up video to ICT is not the Goal, that I created for the DevPro Flipped Consultant YouTube channel back in 2013. Here it is – I have been experimenting with different ways to incorporate video and animation using my limited creative toolset (PowerPoint + MovieMaker + Audacity).

Long Answer? Watch the video 🙂 or, if you prefer, read the script below the video, where you will also find links to the credits for the artwork and music in the video.

ICT is (still) not the Goal
I am not interested in how we can best integrate technology. I am interested in how we can solve problems no, scratch that – more importantly, I care about what is working well in our classrooms and how we can amplify THAT.

Amplifying what works is more important for me than solving problems because if we look for problems to solve, our world will be full of problems. But if we look for what works, if we look for our assets, then our world will be filled with what works. Isn’t that an amazing possibility?

Have you ever been in the market for something new – a new car, paint colour, diet. And all of a sudden you see these new things everywhere? It’s not that there is a sudden influx of new cars, colours, and food on the streets, it is just that your brain is noticing them because they have taken a place of prominence.

I truly believe that we find what we look for.

And so I look at the question of technology and learning through that lens and consciously ask what works? How can we create more of it? How are we getting better?

There are different models we can use to measure technology use or integration – one that many know of is called SAMR – or samr. With SAMR, we can look at how we are using technology in our classrooms and determine if we are just teaching the ‘same old, same old’ with new tools or expanding our horizons beyond what was possible before technology.

It`s interesting and does help to focus on the problem of how technology is used …
but there are two issues at play here:
By using a model like this, we are still placing our focus on the tool.
and by looking at our own integration of technology as a problem to solve , are we not surrounding ourselves with problems?

Instead of focusing on tools to solve problems, what if we just focus on what happens in a learning classroom? When I look around for what works, the stories I see and hear all have the same themes:

  • There is a caring teacher / student relationship.
  • There is a high importance placed on pedagogy.
  • The use of technology is allowed to happen naturally, more by need than by design.

The first two of these themes are really interconnected. As teachers, one way that we care about our students is by keeping the bar high on the learning in our classrooms. When I care about my students I want the very best for them and the only way that is really in my control in this area is by ensuring that I continually evolve in my knowledge of my subject-area as well as on strategies for effectively teaching (and learning!) it. More and more, these strategies turn towards accessibility through technology.

When technology use is allowed to happen naturally, it arises out of need more than by design. This one can be trickier to manage in centres where there is a dearth of technology or where it needs to be reserved ahead of time UNLESS we allow students to bring technology into the room and we arrange to share the technology a centre does have with those students who don’t have their own. This may mean that we need to explicitly foster a climate of collaboration and sharing within our classrooms as well as our centres. This may also mean that it becomes ok for a student to walk into another classroom to borrow a tablet or laptop during the school day.

What if your students and centre don’t have access to technology? That is a big reality for a number of us. Remember – ICT is not the goal. Luckily, the first two of my themes are more than just themes. I would call them conditions for learning. It is in the intersection of relationship and pedagogy that passion for learning is ignited. Technology can facilitate the communication of this passion with others, it can facilitate creative manifestations of this passion but it is not the end of the story. The conditions for learning exist beyond those tools.

So I challenge you to look for instances of what works. Actively seek out our assets as teachers and learners and amplify them by sharing them with others, reusing great ideas from others in your classroom, and demanding the tools and conditions necessary to do so from those in a position to give them to you!

Original script, video, and drawings by Tracy Rosen. RECIT Provincial Service for General Adult Education. Share, adapt, attribute – CC BY 4.0 – May 2015

Prayer Loop Song, sampled in the intro with permission from Supaman, Many thanks!
View the video here (it is stunning): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0jq7jIa34Y

Appreciative Inquiry cartoon by Jeff Logan, 2012. Used with permission. Thanks!
See it on Jeff’s blog here: http://leadershipoffools.com/2013/04/25/train-your-weakness-race-your-strength/

Excerpt from Nova Career Centre’s video Resource Centre – supporting our students
Used with permission – thank you! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kX0cfPt51Q

Excerpt from BYOD Success Story – No Internet? No problem! By Avi Spector & Hilda Smolash. Used with permission, thank you! https://youtu.be/XrXMS9ak-hg

Image of hammer, created with HaikuDeck. https://www.haikudeck.com/

Unconnected by Chapendra on Flickr, shared with a CC BY-NC 2.0 License

14th Chinup by Ian on Flickr, shared with a CC BY-SA 2.0 License

Quotes on pedagogy from: Smith, M. K. (2012). ‘What is pedagogy?’, the encyclopaedia of informal education. [http://infed.org/mobi/what-is-pedagogy/. Retrieved: May 17, 2015].

Additional images from Pixabay, http://pixabay.com/ shared via a Creative Commons Public Domain license.

List of resources referenced in the video
SAMR – accredited to Reuben Puentedura http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/

Quebec Adult Education Common Core Basic Education Programs, http://www.recitfga.qc.ca/english/programs.htm

Changing the way we teach math: A Manual for Teaching Basic Math to Adults
By Kate Nonesuch http://bit.ly/ChangeMath

PD Mosaic – resource tool for personalized PD http://pdmosaic.com

BYOD in Secondary Math – Pinterest board by Rafranz Davis https://www.pinterest.com/mathwhiz11/byod-in-secondary-math/

Underlining the fact that ICT is not the goal

Here is a little video I wrote a couple of years ago, called ICT is Not the Goal*.

As I wrote in my first post, sometimes technology is still seen as a solution. When really technology is a fantastic set of tools that can be chosen from (or not) depending on the context, subject, student, goals, etc…

The solution? Being present for our learners, demonstrating passion for learning, and providing options for how our learners show us what they know.

Sounds pretty human to me. I like that.

*I wrote it for a project called DevPro, where we look at flipping professional development. You can see other videos (in both English and French) at its YouTube channel here –> DevPro – PD Flipped